Krakow market pitches: House of Sand and When the Harmattan Blows

Krakow market pitches: House of Sand and When the Harmattan Blows

Marta Duzbabel’s With A Passion Production, founded in 2019, presents two new documentary projects in development, both strong human interest stories, at KFF Docs to Start.  


In House of Sand, directed by doc debutant Paweł Wyszomirski, a latter-day Don Quixote (Maciej) leaves behind the relative comfort of his German home to build, together with his son, an ‘earth-ship’ eco-house, made solely out of waste, in the heart of Poland’s Warmia region. But while he is trying to save the planet and deal with the climate crisis, he fails to cope with his every‐day reality, which is more harmful for his family.


As the company’s Agnieszka Rostropowicz-Rutkowska points out, the ‘earth-ship’ is just another cloak for the disappointments in Maciej’s life. Every time he is up against it and facing failure, he switches tack completely and runs away from potential solutions instead of trying to find one. He is 60, but he has achieved nothing.


“What is most interesting in this story is that there are many layers, and at the bottom of it all we have a very strong human interest story. It is challenging and it is fascinating. And it is bittersweet, so it is also a comedy.” 


“It’s mostly about Maciej and his fights with the world and all the government issues, and the problems he has to solve in order to build the earth-ship,” she adds. “I think we are only mid-way to knowing him. His life is very interesting, both with all his dramas but also with his Don Quixote approach.”


The Polish-language project is budgeted at €146,123 with €130,000 left to raise. Shooting is scheduled September 2020 to April 2021 ahead of January 2022 delivery.


Rostropowicz-Rutkowska stresses that the company’s other human interest Docs to Start project When the Harmattan Blows “is equally fascinating but completely different.”


The Harmattan is a dry wind that blows into Ghana from the Sahara, reminding 23‐year‐old Barbara of her difficult past. When she was a little girl she experienced much trauma at the hands of her parents, her aunt and a school coach who brutally abused her. Despite this, Barbara tries to move on with her life, forgive her abusers and fight for happiness with the help of her closest friend, the Polish priest Father Piotr.


The project came to With A Passion Production via director Edyta Wróblewska, who teaches at the Wajda School, who met Barbara and Piotr when on holiday in Ghana with her daughter. A strong bond was quickly formed. 


“Barbara is a very strong personality, a strong woman.” says Rostropowicz-Rutkowska. “It’s a very character-driven film about a woman and her very difficult path, but also with added layers, such as advocacy and human rights. So this was something that interested us in the beginning, and of course it is still fascinating for us.”


She agrees that the portrayal of Father Piotr works is a welcome relief from recent accounts of the Catholic Church and its shameful history of abuse. 


“This is completely different. Its more about the bond between human beings,” says Rostropowicz-Rutkowska, adding how Barbara is somebody very prepared to forgive those who orchestrated the misery she experienced in her early life. “She feels very strongly that she would like to start her life again.”


The €243,896 project has received script and development support from the Polish Film Institute and the company will apply for production funding in Autumn 2020. Shooting was supposed to have commenced already, but the pandemic put paid to those plans, so a September or October commencement of principal photography is most likely.